IPI General Assembly Resolution on Sri Lankan Constitutional Amendments and Continued Media Repression

[ IPI ] - [ Sep 14, 2010 09:54 GMT ]

Meeting at their Annual General Assembly on 13 September 2010 in Vienna, Austria the IPI members unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan President to restore press freedom to the country.

The International Press Institute members observed with concern recent constitutional amendments which would have adverse repercussions on the ability of the media to act in a free and fair manner. The unprecedented power which has been introduced through the amendments on the Executive would impact on the ability of free media to work. The additional powers that allow the Executive to seek election to office for an unlimited time outside the two term period that was in force prior to the amendment is but one factor.

The government's hostility to dissent and the impunity with which it operates by intimidating free media has led to self censorship. The recent spate of court actions and the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to incarcerate journalists is condemned. The IPI is also dismayed by attacks and killing of journalists in Sri Lanka. None of these criminal acts have been successfully investigated. The murder of IPI World Press Freedom Hero Lasantha Wickrematunge, and many others, is yet to be solved, although the government has pledged to do so. It is now more than 18 months since the murder took place. The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda is another case that has not been investigated conclusively.

The Elections Commissioner being allowed to give directions to the private media during an election is another factor that would affect functioning of a free media. The plethora of court actions against journalists and media groups is viewed with alarm. Senior public officials being allowed to intimidate the free media through government-controlled media outlets has a negative effect on the ability to keep the public informed.

IPI calls on the Sri Lankan government to restore press freedom and ensure that those who killed, attacked, imprisoned or otherwise violated the rights of journalists during the civil war are punished.